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Sudden Tooth Sensitivity: What's Causing Your Discomfort?

Sudden Tooth Sensitivity: What’s Causing Your Discomfort?

the science of smilesTooth sensitivity is common. Approximately 1 in 8 people experience it. But when it happens suddenly, it’s time to investigate.

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

The American Academy of Endodontists (AAE) describes tooth sensitivity as a brief sensation caused by a stimulus — such as heat or cold — to exposed dentin. When dentin loses its protective covering, the nerves within the teeth lose their buffer.

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Although tooth sensitivity can affect people at any age, women and young adults ages 18 to 44 years old with receding gums tend to report the condition the most.

Unfortunately, the list of causes of sensitive teeth is pretty extensive. And, in some cases, it takes a dental visit to uncover what’s really going on.

But if you suddenly feel twinges or shock-like pain in your teeth, here are key culprits for the discomfort:

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  • Your diet. Eating acidic or hard foods can cause tooth sensitivity, including juices, citrus fruits, and sports drinks can contribute to tooth sensitivity
  • Chewing ice. If you chew on ice, it’s a habit you should consider stopping, as it can crack the enamel of your teeth or grind it down over time, according to the ADA.
  • Harsh brushing. Habits like, using a hard-bristled toothbrush and brushing your teeth aggressively can contribute to tooth sensitivity.
  • Tooth whitening. Sensitivity can be a temporary side effect of a whitening treatment, but it can also result from using overly harsh whitening products or whitening teeth too frequently.
  • Tooth decay. Even a small cavity can eat away enough tooth enamel to expose dentin and cause sensitivity. In this case, a filling or a crown might help.
  • Recent dental work. You may experience temporary sensitivity after you’ve had a dental procedure. This should improve within four weeks after the procedure.
  • Eating or digestive disorders. The frequent vomiting associated with bulimia leads to stomach acids wearing away at the surface of the teeth. Acid reflux can have the same effect.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy doesn’t directly cause tooth sensitivity, but its hormonal changes can affect your gums, which might lead to some discomfort or pain.
  • Stress. Stress can lead to tooth damage if it causes you to grind your teeth, which in turn can cause tooth sensitivity.

With so many possible causes, working with us at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES® to address sensitive teeth is essential, both to find the cause and create a treatment plan!

(RELATED: Secrets to Less Cavities and Brighter Smiles as We Age)


THE SCIENCE OF SMILES® offers affordable cosmetic and laser dentistry and gentle, compassionate general dental care in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®, we provide most dental services, from basic preventative care and general dentistry to specialized procedures and complete dental reconstruction. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable dental care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping those smiles healthy, beautiful, and bright. Discover an affordable dentist who truly cares at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®.